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Wednesday, April 18, 2012


is really making it difficult for me. I write about military or government type heroes and heroines and these people have to be pretty tech savvy. A hero and heroine can’t simply go missing these days unless they have carefully planned to go completely off the grid. And I do mean completely off.

With all this modern-day technology how can my hero or heroine get lost and need help? GPS devices are everywhere, watches, phones, and people who are regularly put in danger are carrying little GPS tracking devices. Tires have GPS chips in them. Supposedly it's to determine the wear and tear on the tire so they can make a better product. When tires are traded those chips, so I'm told, can accurately tell everyplace the tires went. And if push comes to shove along with a court order, they could possibly be used to locate a vehicle.

Satellites can take pictures of license plates. Silent remote-controlled drones and helicopters can buzz only feet away and take pictures. And you won't know they were there. Most establishments have cameras. Inside and out. Facial recognition programs are used at transportation hubs and police departments around the world. All the software needs is a current photo of you and the computer scans all the faces for a match. The US Department of Justice operates one of the largest systems in the world with over 75 million photographs that are actively used. Even Disney uses them. Really?!?

From space, heat signature devices can tell how many people are in a building. Phones can pinpoint an owners location. Planes have locator transponders. Credit card use can be relayed to the authorities minutes after they've been used. If you post on Facebook it knows where you are and can tell everybody.

The high-tech security locks on new vehicles can be short-circuited with a laptop and a $50 software program. All one of these needs is the vehicle VIN number. Easily seen from outside the car BTW. The thief codes the Vin number into a laptop, hits a couple of keys and by gosh by golly the locks pop and the ignition starts. If someone steals your iPad, smart phone, or laptop there are apps that can track it. So, if you can track it if it's been stolen somebody can sure as heck track you as the owner.

You can’t even put your hero and heroine at the bottom of the ocean because Bob Ballard or James Cameron will be sure to find them. And get this. At the South Pole there is this new building, two stories high. It's off the ground on pillars or stilts or something and those stilts can raise the building up even higher off the ground should the snow get that bad. It was built with a slope to help it withstand the 60 mile an hour winds that Antarctica has during the winter. It houses several different types of scientific labs and a greenhouse where fresh vegetables are grown. Head smack. You can't even make your characters uncomfortable at the South Pole.

A while back I watched one of my favorite movies Rear Window with Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. That movie couldn't be made today. Absolutely all of the tension was built on the fact that Grace Kelly went across the courtyard to the murderer’s apartment and had no contact with Jimmy. No communication. The tension was built when Stewart could see the bad guy coming and he had no way to tell Kelly. That wouldn't happen today.

With all the technology we have today I have no idea how any criminal can get away with anything. I swear I'm ready to start setting my stories in the 60s and 70s. Phones had cords and busy signals. Computer processors took up the whole room and you didn't need to experience a cavity search to get on a plane. Cars didn’t parallel park for you and tell you where to go.

And it's little off-topic here but… If all this is true about those Secret Service agents in Cartagena, what were they thinking? Can anyone say phone cameras and YouTube?


Marcelle Dubé said...

Gosh, Rita, when you put it that way... :-) Actually I was just thinking along the same lines: technology has changed the mystery novel -- just the cell phone has changed everything. After all, the detective can just call for help and hunker down until it arrives, or call in to the station and get a colleague to pull up an address for her.

Rita said...

All this technology redefines the way we write. Goin back in time is looking better and better.

Anne Marie Becker said...

You are so right, Rita - technology changes everything. When I'm editing, I get tired of all the "he pulled out his cell phone" and "She got a text message." It sounds boring if there's too much technology...takes the challenge away. But I don't know how to get rid of some of it and still make it sound realistic. LOL Interesting challenge, though!

And I'd love to read something set in the 60's or 70's! I'm in love with the Mad Men TV series right now. Fascinating to remember a time when issues and technology were so different! (Not to mention everyone smoke and drank....of course, that's television, but still...)

Wendy Soliman said...

I sometimes get frustrated writing historicals when I have to cut out modern language and modern communications. When I'm writing a modern day book, I have a whole load of other problems. You can have people in areas where there's no cell phone reception but, even so, if someone really wants to find them...

Clare London said...

Great post, Rita.I'm actually writing a book at the moment that's pitching into the future, when we've all become pretty saturated by technology and the way in encroaches on every part of life. It's a great tool in many ways, but an additional frustration in others.

Rita said...

Anne Marie everbody did smoke and drink in the 50s and 60s. There were no restrictions on pregnant women either.

Rita said...

Wendy, I know how you write both historical and contemporary. Secure satellite cells that can be used just about anywhere are becoming more popular and the price is being lowered. In 3 or4 years if you have a new phone I doubt they'll be any place where you can't get service.

Rita said...

Clare it's frustrating for me because it becomes increasingly difficult to put someone in a dangerous situation if they have all this technology to protect them. Maybe that's why dystopian is being coming so popular.

Kathy Ivan said...

Funny I was just thinking this the other day--how to lose a person to where they are untraceable. I'm not sure that it could easily be done any more. People used to be able to drop off the grid, even change identies, and it could be handled in a believable fashion. Nowadays, not so much.

It's interesting to at least try to come up with scenarios where the H and H can't rely on all the modern day technology to find or stay one step ahead of the bad guys. After all, the bad guys have technology, too!

Great post, Rita!

Rita said...

Technology is moving so fast that we can almost make up stuff. I've been researching electromagnetic fields and how they can prevent the use of a lot of technology. But it really is above my brain level.
I've heard that some people use wart removal products on their fingertips to blur fingerprints.
I get a headache thinking about all of it.

Josh Lanyon said...

I have to agree. Technology has forced us all to up our game!

Cathy Perkins said...

LOL - y'all don't live where I do. Internet access remaining a huge issue for anyone 10 miles away from an interstate highway or living in a rural area.

Just sayin'

If you're writing the out-and-out thriller, yep, you'd better be on your game with technology - or use a little creative license to dream up some new technology that can defeat the old stuff. We watched Down Periscope last weekend (since our place in the mountains has neither internet or TV reception and very limited cell coverage). Remember the trick he pulls by bringing the diesel sub up between the screws of the commercial tanker to mess with the nuke sub's sonar? I have no idea if it would actually work, but by that point, I'd ride along with the pirate. :)

Wynter Daniels said...

Good post. You have to work really hard to get lost these days - or just go live where Cathy does;-)

Toni Anderson said...

Great post, Rita. On the other side of the coin, some departments are making so many cuts (I'm thinking Britain but who knows where else), that while they have the technology they might not employ it b/c of cost. Actually I was talking to my hubby last night. He says people in admin at work are allowed to use photocopiers at work anymore b/c of the memory in the machines. It's a crazy world :)

Toni Anderson said...

Are NOT allowed to use copiers LOL.

Rita said...

OMG! Toni I did not know copiers had memory. Eeep!

Rita said...

Thing is Cathy if you pay big bucks or have access to huge gov programs you can get service anywhere.

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